Home > Finance > Reckitt Benckiser’s Harpic adds record consumers in India; says biz operating well in a complex environment

Reckitt Benckiser’s Harpic adds record consumers in India; says biz operating well in a complex environment


NEW DELHI: Reckitt Benckiser’s Harpic disinfectant brand has added a record 20 million plus consumers in India in the past one year as demand for hygiene products continued to surge amid the pandemic, the British healthcare maker’s global chief executive Laxman Narasimhan said while announcing its third quarter earnings. Reckitt Benckiser Group plc (RB), which competes aggressively with Hindustan Unilever and ITC in the disinfectants and antiseptic soaps space in India, did not provide country-specific estimates but said the India business performed “very well” in the quarter.

“The strength of some of our brands in India and the ability for them to navigate what is a complex operational environment is something we feel very good about,” Laxman, who has been heading the company for over a year now, said at the company’s post-earnings call. He added that India is the largest market for Harpic.

The company said its condom brand Durex also grew in India and China, which it said were key emerging markets for the business.

Last quarter, the British maker of Dettol, Harpic and Lizol had said its Dettol soap bar became the biggest soap brand by value share in India. Traditionally, Hindustan Unilever’s Lux and Lifebuoy have dominated the segment.

RB exceeded analyst expectations to report 13.3% like-for-like growth in the third quarter on Tuesday, as the pandemic fuelled record demand for hygiene products across developed and developing markets sooner than expected, the company said.

“We are seeing significant behaviour change and penetration increases are very strong and we will meet medium term growth expectations across developed and developing markets sooner than expected,” Narasimhan said.

Earlier this month, the consumer healthcare and hygiene company’s chief executive had announced it would double investments in its Dettol Banega Swachh India campaign from £10 to £20 million. “It is evident that the pandemic will bring a paradigm shift in not only the way health and hygiene will be practiced, but the way it is envisioned by the government, the industry as well as the community at large,” he had said.

RB has extensively leveraged its own cleanliness and hygiene campaign with the government’s Swachh Bharat programme.

A recent report by market researcher Nielsen said consumer goods companies introduced a total 1,897 products in the health and hygiene segment in March-August, an 18-fold jump from the preceding six months, spanning categories such as liquid soaps, antiseptic liquids and analgesics.

RB said sales of its hygiene business went up 19.5%, while the health business grew 12.6%.

Narasimhan said demand for category-leading disinfectant products has been “exceptional” in recent months, with increased penetration and new consumers. “We expect structurally higher levels of demand to persist longer term as new consumer cleaning and sanitation habits become ingrained,” he said.

RB said the surge in demand for hygiene products led it to expand Dettol and Lysol (Lizol in India) in an additional 19 countries compared to the same quarter last year, and that it expanded the reach of hand sanitisers to 20 new markets.

It revised its full-year net revenue outlook upwards, stating that it expects low double-digit growth, up from a previous forecast of high single-digit growth.

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